May 27 – What is Wrong with the Majority of Churches?

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We could probably spend all day unpacking that question, but let’s keep our answers focused on multiplication. 

Does it shock you that 93% of churches don’t ever multiply? 

What would it look like if 93% of humans never multiplied? What conclusions would you draw about the future of the human race?

Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church drills down into focusing on how we can each play our part in moving the needle on church multiplication. Our team set out to identify 10 radically multiplying U.S. churches—just 10 that we could highlight and learn from. With more than 350,000 churches in the United States, that 10 represents just .003 percent of churches. We spent months searching for them, but we couldn’t find 10. We couldn’t find even three.

Something’s not right. This isn’t how it’s meant to be. The gap between aspiration and practices highlighted in the Multiplication Quiz in the previous unit certainly burdens God’s heart. Closing this gap is worth giving our lives to and committing our resources. What will it take to move the needle from less than 0.05 percent to greater than 10 percent (and beyond)?

At Exponential, we dream about closing this gap and hitting a tipping point where multiplication becomes mainstream and evolves into the new normal that leaders aspire to and pursue.

To close the gap between our aspirations and our current paradigm, we need to look hard at our motives, our measures, and our methods. Are these elements rooted in a core value of multiplication? How do we learn to put to death our human passion for addition-growth, opting instead for a more healthy Kingdom growth focused on multiplication?

Moving the Needle on Multiplication

What will it take to move the needle on multiplication and close the gap between our aspirations and our practices? We believe at least five actions are required:

Action #1 – Embrace a core value and culture of multiplication.

Our values are the vital factors that shape what we do and how we do it. We must develop a heart and passion for multiplication. Not simply a value on paper, but instead a deeply engrained priority that we live out every day. A compass that shapes our thinking and guides our decision-making.

What culture are you creating in your church? Be honest. Not the seemingly elusive culture you want to develop, but rather the real culture you’re creating by your thinking, actions, and the models you pursue. Are you developing a subtraction, survival, and scarcity culture: “We will [fill in blank] after we grow or can afford it.” Or maybe an addition-growth culture characterized by an insatiable drive for conquering the next hill and breaking the next growth barrier: “Where is the next one?” Or are you bucking the norm and creating a multiplication-growth culture? A culture best characterized by release versus consumption, and movement versus accumulation?

Exponential’s ebook Spark, highlighted three key elements of a healthy, aligned culture:

Our Culture = Our Core Values + Our Narratives + Our Behaviors  

It is helpful to examine each one separately before we move to the second action we must take for multiplication.

Core values are the things so important to us that they shape how we think and how we do all that we do. Our core values reflect our heart, what we really care about deep down. They overflow to shape the words of our mouth (our narrative) and the actions of our hands (our behaviors).

Narratives are the language we use, the stories we tell, and how frequently we talk about and celebrate the things most important to us. Our narratives inspire others to embrace our values and engage on common mission with us.

Behaviors are the things we actually do, including how and where we invest the time, talent, and financial resources entrusted to our care.

Spark introduced these three core elements of culture and now with Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church, we want to press more deeply into how we live them out.

Action #2 – Embrace a new scorecard and paradigm for measuring “healthy growth.”

This practice moves us beyond the ornery and unhealthy parts of our scorecard that are entrenched in addition and accumulation paradigms. Spark introduced a framework for “healthy growth,” and now Becoming a Level Five Multiplying Church expands on that framework. Our understanding of healthy growth is a game changer in understanding how addition-growth can derail and inhibit multiplication-growth.

Action #3 – Embrace the specific behaviors and decisions characteristic of multiplying churches.

We need a framework or standard we can turn to that describes the profile and characteristics of the behaviors of multiplying churches. Think about this: If just 10 percent of the churches attending an Exponential conference each year committed to the practices reflected in the quiz questions, the trajectory of Christianity in the U.S. would change. Unfortunately, most churches aspire to become like the prominent addition-growth churches they hear and read about. Without strong multiplication role models, leaders have no one to coach and mentor them in the values and practices characteristic of multiplying churches.

In this course, we look at the reality and context of a wide spectrum of U.S. churches, ranging from those in survival/subtraction mode to addition/growth mode and then finally to multiplication. You’ll find profiles for five different levels of church multiplication, including descriptions and characteristics of each one. Most leaders can simply read through the profiles and discern their church’s level.

Action #4 – Understand and manage the key tensions that can be barriers to multiplication.

All churches face tension. None are immune. As churches progress from Level 1 up to Level 5, they will face a multitude of different tensions. Most are predictable. These tensions are responsible for the bulk of the gap between our aspirations and our behaviors. You’ll learn more about those later this week.

Action #5 – Live out your culture with intentionality, focus, urgency and an abundance mindset.

Your specific culture (subtraction, addition, or multiplication) is formed not by who you want to be in the future, but rather by who you are and what you’re doing today. Each of the small, consistent daily decisions you make is a stone in the foundation of the culture you foster. Want a multiplication culture in your church? Figure out how to multiply in your context now. Research shows us that when a church waits for an elusive day in the future to start leaning into multiplication, that elusive day never comes.

As we’ve said before, it takes courageous leadership to overcome the prevailing addition-growth cultures that have become our measure of success. Courageous leaders will acknowledge and address head-on each of the above tensions. A leader with a multiplication mindset has the opportunity to define and shape the future landscape of Christianity in the West.

Check out the video below for the Office Hours session with Daniel Yang and Peyton Jones on this topic.

We are better together!

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
John 17:22-23

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